Dr. Marji Puotinen is an Australian research scientist whose work focuses on coral reefs and their responses to tropical cyclones. A lifetime environmentalist, she dedicates every free moment to engaging and educating kids about climate change. At the TREE Foundation, we’re passionate about educating kids as well, and it’s our pleasure to help spread the word about the vital work Dr. Poutinen is doing.
In the face of her distressing research findings, which illuminate the imperiled future of Australian coral reefs, Dr. Puotinen knew she had to take action. She was inspired by her role as a mother to focus first on children, many of whom have already dealt with the impacts of climate change first-hand. She believes kids have the open-mindedness and power to affect change on adults and that they deserve to understand the realities of the world around them. Most importantly, she calls the climate crisis an “all hands on deck” situation—by getting kids involved, we can make all the difference.
Twice now she has spearheaded a contest entitled “Kids Care About Climate Change,” in which she engages kids around the world to create drawings in an effort to raise awareness about the widespread impacts of climate change. She also is known to dress up as endangered animals, including coral polyps and penguins, and she leads a variety of other interactive, educational activities in schools to inspire kids and get them involved in climate change activism.
In 2018, Dr. Puotinen ran her Kids Care About Climate Change contest for the first time. She invited kids ages 4-14 from all around the world to submit drawings of penguins or coral reefs, two of the organisms most visibly impacted by climate change and global warming. It was a huge success, with over 1200 students globally sending in drawings, which Dr. Puotinen compiled into a large banner that she displayed in different locations around Antarctica.
In 2021, Dr. Puotinen ran the contest again, this time with the theme “Plant a Tree, Cool the Earth.” She partnered with Fifteen Trees, an Australian organization, to plant a tree for each drawing submitted. The 2021 contest attracted submissions from over 2500 students in 33 different nations. Again, Dr. Puotinen compiled a banner that includes all of the drawings, which can be seen here. She is now touring some of the world’s climate hotspots with the banner in order to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on trees and forests. This summer, Dr. Puotinen will fly the 2021 Kids Care About Climate Change banner from the Langur Way Canopy Walkway in Penang, Malaysia.
Dr. Puotinen’s work is innovative and vital to today’s climate crisis. She helps kids understand the realities of climate change, while simultaneously showing them that they can make a difference. In so doing, she is educating an entire generation of climate activists who are fueled by a desire for action—whether that be planting a tree, telling their parents and friends about endangered species, or taking even bigger steps to protect the Earth. Her work embodies a Greta Thunberg quote that she herself is a fan of: “Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.” Dr. Puotinen dedicates her life to inspiring action, and, in so doing, is building hope amongst young people around the globe. More on her impactful work can be found here.